I started a second hive this Spring with a 5 frame nuc of Minnesota Hygienic bees. The hive took off very quickly and has been quite productive. However, these bees seem to put down an excessive amount of propolis. It is everywhere and very thick. It is very difficult separating frames and lifting them out of the hive box. My hands are a sticky mess after an inspection and it’s difficult to get off my hands and my hive tools. Is this a trait of these bees? Does it mean something? Picture attached.
All bees love propolis. In my experience, Italian bees are the Princesses of Propolis. You are lucky to have MN Hygienic bees, they are some of the best! They are not pure Italian bees, but they probably have some of their characteristics. Propolis is also antibacterial and good for the hive, so maybe that is part of their hygiene secret!
Having said that, all bees tend to go for propolis more in the Fall, when nectar and pollen sources are decreasing. Bees like to keep busy, so they go foraging for tree resins and other propolis sources in that part of the season.
You have lovely bees, cherish them and their propolis!
Gosh that IS a lot of propolis!! I’ve read that some bees just do make more than others, but I also wonder if it’s a sign of a harsh winter as is often noted regarding other species’ nests and storage habits?
I agree with @Eva that it might be a warning sign of a harsh Winter to come when bees go to the extra effort in stopping any drafts inside the hive. Propolis can be annoying when it comes to us working in the hive but it comes with the job. They only collect it when it is needed in the hive so it might be a good time to consider the warmth of the hive and insulation if you think that could be what is causing all the propolis use.
Here in Kansas City, Missouri September is still a very hot summer-like month. Today it was 94 degrees F. Asters and goldenrod are in full bloom. The bees may know something the rest of us do not.
Collecting & using propolis is natural for bees. I have noticed that they start doing it, in conjunction with gathering honey/pollen after the days start to shorten. They know winter is approaching & want to seal any gaps that might leak a draft.
Some colonies certainly collect more than others, from my experience. I wear bee gloves & for some reason, I get a buildup of it in one spot on my left index finger. I just remove it, as well as any other buildup, including my hive tool, then drop it into my smoker.
Your bees are doing a great job. I would encourage the use of gloves, for the purpose of avoiding sticky hands, not to mention bee stings.
Definitely a good thing @Brick, its just a theory but I have noticed a significant drop in mould from excessive moisture in the hive over winter and as a bonus, less hive beetles… don’t think they like the smell or the stickiness… I have broken a few frame top bars on the cool days attempting to lever them out. I sometimes wonder how the bees move around in all that propolis, it gets everywhere but it just doesn’t seem to bother them. I run two species of bee and its the caucasians that envelope everything in propolis, I am now collecting it whenever I can and am hoping to find a new market for it. I hear its worth many more times than honey and wax.
Insulation works against heat too
A lot of propolis is a genetic trait. Caucasians are the worst… Marla Spivak (who bred the Minnesota Hygenic bees) is a fan of propolis and has published some studies that show that the more propolis they make the healthier the bees are…
Basically for 200 years we bred for all the wrong things except two. The two that were good were gentleness and productivity. But we also bred against hygienic behavior by breeding for perfect patters (no holes in the brood), we bred against propolis (which makes them healthier), we bred against swarming (which makes them reproductively disadvantaged), we bred for less drones (which makes them reproductively disadvantaged). The result is that when AFB move in they out reproduce our bees and take over.
Propolis is a good thing. It is a pain in the butt, but still a good thing.
I have Italians that make minimal propolis and then I have the Mountain Mutts based on a black queen I got years ago. The mutts are propolis fanatics but they are healthy and strong and can really push out the honey. Its sticky and makes a mess but I will pay that price if my bees are healthy and strong.
If it bugs you that much just wear gloves and clean your hive tool after using it.